My Okanagan Wine Tour

Bonnie Johnson's PostFinally.  I have been living in the Okanagan Valley officially for well over a year and unofficially for much longer but last weekend was the first local wine tour I’ve gone on.

It was a girl’s thang.  On  Saturday morning two girl friends and I drove through the mist and drizzle to Okanagan Falls.  What a great way to spend a grey and rainy Fall day – sipping wine!

see ya later ranchWe began our little self-determined tour just outside of Okanagan Falls at the See Ya Later Ranch Winery.  As we wound our way up Hawthorne Mountain we had our first hint at the whimsical nature of the winery when we past a road sign that read “Almost There!”  On the way up we talked about how one of us had heard the ranch originally got its name when the owner’s wife left him a note that said “See ya later” and then never came back.  We liked this story and kept it in our minds as we looked at all of the pictures of the owner and his dogs that were framed all over the stone heritage house that now serves as the tasting room.  A man and his dogs. Alone. No wife to be seen.  The original owner, Major Hugh Fraser was a big lover of canines.  The wines are all named after his pets, Rover, Ping, Nelly, Jimmy, to name a few.  The same beloved dogs were laid to rest in a small cemetery beside the house complete with headstones.  This made perfect sense to us.  Of course he was so distraught when his wife left him; he turned to his dogs for love.  “Should have been nicer to your wife!” we thought.  But then I read the true history of the ranch on their web site.  It turns out there never was a wife.  Instead the ranch got its name because he was “a prolific letter-writer, and would end each letter with the signature phrase, “see ya later,” which was shortened to the letters S.Y.L. and led to the naming of the property – SYL Ranch.”  Hmm.  I like our version better.

My purchase:
2008 Pinot Gris ~ Crisp and fresh. A true taste of Okanagan summer.
2008 Nelly Rose ~ A serious Rose – not overly sweet, it has more backbone and depth than the usual. (Not something I usually go for)

Our next stop was Sumac Ridge Winery.  One of the Okanagan’s leading sparkling wine makers.  They have launched major award winners like Stellars Jay, the only sparkling Shiraz in Canada and now a brand new 100% Chardonnay bubbly called Tribute.  Released and dedicated as a tribute to our Canadian Olympic athletes.  It was at this winery that I had my lesson in how to properly pronounce Gewürztraminer.  If I couldn’t say it I couldn’t taste it I was told. Gewürztraminer, Gewürztraminer, Gewürztraminer – now give me a sip.

My purchase:
2007 Gewürztraminer ~ This Gewürztraminer is abundant with rose petal and spicy aromas and lends bright flavours of lychee and muscat to the palate (mostly I bought it because I was so proud I could say it).

Greata Ranch WineryWorking our way north, our next stop was at the beautifully situated Greata Ranch Winery.  The winery looks down on Okanagan Lake nestled in the hillside just south of Peachland.  The Fitzpatrick family bought Greata Ranch in 1994 and planted a total of 40 acres of grapes.  The property is in full production and now produces about 2000 cases of wine annually.

My purchase: A Chardonnay and a Gewürztraminer

Mission Hill wine barrel cellarNext we headed into the Mt. Boucherie area and had just enough time to visit two more wineries.  First, we stopped at Mission Hill Winery.  It was almost 5 pm when we arrived and we were disappointed to discover that they were closing at 5.  No tasting for us.  They fell for our sad eyes and offered us each a small glass of one of their whites to sip while the other patrons were lining up with all of their purchases.  Missing this wine tasting didn’t break my heart because I’ve tasted Mission Hill wines many times and I know what they are all about.  The grounds are quite spectacular though and I am definitely going to come back next summer to experience the beautiful architecture, outdoor amphitheatre and their Dining Terrace which Travel and Leisure magazine have ranked as one of the top five winery restaurants in the world.

My purchase: Nada. Zilch. Zip.

The last winery on our tour was Quails Gate Winery.  This is another incredibly scenic vineyard that overlooks beautiful Okanagan Lake and some of the best of the valley.  We were able to just squeeze in before closing and enjoyed a wonderfully educational tasting of a wide variety of their wines.  The highlight for me, and the perfect finish to this perfect day, was sipping their Riesling ice wine in between melting pieces of dark chocolate on my tongue.  The chocolate truly enhanced the flavour of the ice wine and turned it into a heavenly experience.

My purchase:
Chasselas, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris blend ~ My favourite of the day! I walked away with 2 bottles but I may buy a case later.
Riesling Ice Wine ~ Oh ya, baby! Wine and chocolate together = heaven!

I’m not sure what the official number is but I counted 121 wineries listed in British Columbia on one web site.  So that means 5 down and 116 to go.  Oh, I just love living here!